Julianna Margulies has been blessed with an extraordinary career and a loving family. But like any other working mother, there is one gift she's not sure what to do with: unexpected time to herself.
"My son left the house this morning at 8:15, and then my husband went to work, and all of sudden I was alone," she says with a laugh. "I was so confused. Should I answer emails? Clean up? Working parents get so used to doing everything at once that if I'm not multitasking, I'm not effective. I get almost paralyzed with freedom."
This is not a problem the Emmy-winning star of CBS's The Good Wife -- now in its fifth season -- faces often. In her role as Alicia Florrick, an attorney putting her life back together after her husband is caught in a political scandal, Margulies, 47, logs 14-hour days at work before returning to the New York City apartment she shares with her husband, lawyer Keith Lieberthal, and their 5-year-old son, Kieran. "Making it all work is definitely a learning curve, but I'm getting better at it," says Margulies. "I'm learning to let go of the minutiae."
For instance? "I like an orderly home because my life is so chaotic, but I used to inwardly yell at myself for making my bed when I could be doing something else," she explains. "Now I say, 'I like making my bed, and I like getting into a made bed at the end of the day.' It's who I am, and if you can't find a balance between laughing at yourself and accepting yourself, what's the point?"
Julianna Margulies: The Early Years
Margulies was raised by parents well versed in the art of going with the flow. Her father, an advertising copywriter, and her dance-teacher mother moved Margulies and her two older sisters between France, England, and the United States. "Some people looked at my life and said, 'Oh, you had the perfect childhood, with exotic, intellectual parents who traveled all over.' But I didn't feel at the time it was so great having divorced parents who lived in separate countries."
With an eye on stability, Margulies graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and gave herself until the age of 25 to make it as an actor before seeking another career. "The beauty of my childhood was that I knew I could pound the pavement and always be fine, because I know how to make something work," she says. "But I also knew I wasn't a person who could stand a life of rejection, or happily live a life on a futon with no air conditioning. And then I got lucky. After a year and a half, I was paying my rent and health insurance."